Mom Dragged for Trying To Enforce 'Clear Your Plate' Rule on Friend's Kid

A mother who tried to impose her rule of not allowing children to have dessert unless they "clear" their plate during a meal at her friend's home has received a storm of backlash on Mumsnet.

According to a post shared by Mumsnet user, Lolabear38 on the platform's Am I Being Unreasonable (AIBU) forum, the woman and her husband "have different expectations at dinner time for their kids" than she does. "They enforce a very strict 'clear your plate or no pudding' rule."

While the user understands that the couple's rules apply at their house, she said they also try to enforce the same rule during meals at the user's house.

One evening when the original poster told her friend that she doesn't require her daughter to clear her plate, the friend allegedly said that was "fair enough." However, she allegedly added that "for the sake of making everything fair to her kids when they're all eating together, the rule has to apply," claiming "it's not fair her kids have to do this while mine don't."

The user asked: "AIBU to put my foot down and say dd (Darling Daughter) doesn't have to clear her plate to have pudding? In my own house?!...if I'm following their rules in their home surely they should return the gesture when in my house?!"

The user explained that she knows what her daughter has eaten in a day and whether she's had "a roughly balanced diet" or not.

The original poster said: "Presuming she's eaten (what I consider to be) enough, then she's allowed to leave what she doesn't want and still have pudding. I also don't want to force her to eat or use pudding as a reward."

Child covering eyes over a food plate.
A little girl holding her hands over her face in front of a plate full of vegetables. iStock/Getty Images Plus

A study published in February 2019 in the peer-reviewed journal Appetite suggested that a "clean plate" mentality could lead to overeating.

Kelly Haws, one of the co-authors of the study who is a marketing professor at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University, explained: "Many of us were raised with this 'clean your plate' mentality, stemming from a desire to ensure one is not being wasteful or their children are eating well; however, this can also lead to overconsumption."

According to the study, "when a small (vs. large) quantity of unhealthy leftovers remains after a meal/snack—that is, when additional food consumption can feasibly provide consumption closure [perceiving a given eating occasion as finished or complete]—the desire to continue eating is higher (vs. lower)."

The study demonstrated a "justifying by healthifying" effect, where "this desire to eat more is, in turn, justified by downplaying the unhealthiness of the food," such as by perceiving it as less unhealthy or fattening.

Several users came to the defense of the original poster in the latest Mumsnet post.

Many said the act of forcing your children to finish their plate clean is "damaging" and "unhealthy" as well as "outdated," and condemned the original poster's friend for her "appalling" behavior.

One user said they believe "being forced to clear your plate leads to unhealthy relationships with food and struggles with being overweight. If you begin to get used to clearing entire portions when you're not hungry, that becomes a habit...How can we expect children to have a healthy relationship with food and make good choices as adults if we are force-feeding them as children?..."

While another noted: "Besides the fact it's ridiculous, cruel, unhealthy and has the potential to create a dangerous relationship with food, you do not allow anyone to do ANYTHING to your child that you do not agree with."

A third commented: "Demanding a cleared plate is outdated and damaging. It's forcing a child to overeat and, as PPs [previous posters] have said, encourages a bad relationship with food."

And a final chimed in, stating: "Appalling outdated behavior from your friend. That can cause eating disorders. Poor DCs [dear children, frowning sad face emoji]."

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